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From Uranium Mine to Fishing Lake: Environmental Remediation in France's Limousin Region


Environmental remediation in France's Limousin region. (Photo: AREVA/France)

Artificial lakes, fishing spots and solar farms dot the landscape in France’s Limousin region, where uranium operations have gradually come to an end. This transformation would not have been possible without stakeholder involvement, transparent processes and well-coordinated activities, said Yves Marignac, the coordinator of the French Pluralistic Expert Group (GEP), involved with remediation activities in the region. The local population had an important consultative role during the environmental remediation programme, and they now use the former mining sites for recreation.

“A consultative approach to remediation management is key to having the people’s support when we had to deal with the closing of the uranium mining sites in Limousin,” Marignac said. Uniquely, the non-governmental organizations (NGOs) were the driving force behind broadening the scope of environmental remediation, he added.

An important factor for any successful remediation project is public engagement in the decision-making process. The local communities have the most interest in successful environmental remediation, and they need to get satisfactory answers to questions on why, when and how will it impact them. “Their involvement is vital and necessary to ensure technically sound and socially acceptable decisions,” Marignac said.

This week's  International Conference on Advancing the Global Implementation of Decommissioning and Environmental Remediation Programmes, in Madrid, Spain, covers important issues in these two fields, including the importance of stakeholder involvement in the decision-making processes. The latest issue of the IAEA Bulletin also deals with this topic. Please see the full edition here.

Public involvement

Initially, the responsible organization for remediation work, AREVA, did not widely advertise its plans, Marignac explained. However, with NGOs and experts conducting independent assessments on radioactive residues, the responsible parties for the remediation activities quickly broadened the scope of the remediation work to take into consideration public concerns. That was achieved through greater public participation in the decision-making process, he said.

Acting decisively and swiftly, the French authorities established GEP to develop a dialogue by taking on board experts from stakeholder communities to freely discuss and address remediation issues for the closed mines. This interactive dialogue also provided a platform for discussions of priority remediation activities and awareness-building.

The GEP was composed of more than 30 experts with diverse backgrounds, including independent experts as well as those from institutions in France and abroad, associations and industry groups.

They were involved in dealing with specific technical and operational aspects of the remediation implementation programme.

The environmental remediation plan shared with GEP involved securing the areas surrounding the closed mines, building special disposal sites, removing and covering contaminated rocks and taking special measures to eliminate the risk of radioactive elements seeping into the water system. “Contaminated drainage from waste rock piles was an essential concern. The water had to be collected and treated before being released for public consumption,” Marignac said. In some areas, water monitoring and management are still going on.

The Institute for Radiological Protection and Nuclear Safety and the National Institute for the Industrial Environment and Hazards provided guidance and support in the remediation work. International experts from the IAEA, Belgium, Israel, Luxembourg, Switzerland and the United Kingdom were also consulted.

Today, the former uranium mining sites hardly reveal the past activities, perfectly blending into the surrounding landscape.

A consultative approach to remediation management is key to having the people’s support.
Yves Marignac, Coordinator, Pluralistic Expert Group, France

Remediated site in the Limousin region. (Photo: AREVA/France)

Last update: 26 Jul 2017

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